Witch Blood
by Anya Bast, fantasy (2008)
Berkley, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-22043-6

Witch Blood is part of a series, but it can be read as a standalone just fine. The author does a very good job here explaining the set-up and the story behind the Witches and the Warlocks. This one is the story of Isabelle Novak, a vigilante water witch, who attempts to slay the leader of the Warlock-run Duskoff Cabal, Stefan Faucheux, only to discover that she's part of a bigger plan involving interplanar demon politics. Lucky for her, the head of the Coven, the earth witch Thomas Monahan, wants her to be back with the gang and he is more than happy to aid her in return for her services in furthering the Coven's causes.

Isabelle can be a good heroine here as she can genuinely kick butt on her own without requiring any assistance from the hero. Her abilities are pretty cool too - as a water witch, she can "see" scenes that happened in the past at a particular place provided that there is a pool of water near the scene that she can dip her hand into. She can also freeze the water in one's body in order to kill the other person. She is actually useful in this story, which is nice. Meanwhile, Thomas is clearly a man of authority without exaggerated alpha male tendencies. He is protective of Isabelle, but he doesn't completely dominate her or force her to play the helpless Barbie role just to feel like a real man.

The setting is interesting and the author's canon for her witches is most fascinating. Ms Bast manages to weave in all these details into her story without coming off too much like preaching aloud from an encyclopedia. As a result, Witch Blood starts off as a most interesting story with great leading characters and most fascinating setting.

Unfortunately, the romance isn't as interesting as the storyline about a demon on the loose killing witches and all. As a result, I find myself skimming the love scenes because I don't care to read about how deliriously happy and naked those two characters are, I want them back on their feet and back on the mystery. Also, this is the case where love makes the characters kind of stupid because Isabelle decides to keep secrets from Thomas so that she can martyr herself in order to protect Thomas and everyone else when common sense should tell her that it is better to work as a team rather than becoming a one-woman kamikaze moron squad.

But what really brings down this story is the way the story goes into fast-forward mode in the last third or so of the story. This is not a long book by any means, so I have no idea why the story needs to be rushed to a most unsatisfying and abrupt ending. Even worse, the hero is saved by a convenient deus ex machina character that also doubles most insultingly as an out-of-the-blue sequel bait. If Ms Bast has taken the time and effort to introduce Claire into the story, Claire won't come off so much like a plot device to end the story quickly and easily while allowing Ms Bast to write yet another sequel for her series. Meanwhile, Isabelle is reduced to being the worried woman wringing her hands at home while the big man is missing.

Witch Blood starts out good and it could have been even better, but somehow it ends with a pathetic whimper instead. I don't know what happened. I'm really, really disappointed by Witch Blood.

Rating: 72

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